If you’re into history-focused travel, venture onto the Web before your departure (or during your trip, if you bring a laptop). Sites are cropping up to equip the heritage traveler with specialized itineraries, maps, historical background, off-the-beaten-path ideas and more. Use these resources to create a historic experience of your own.
Start with the National Register of Historic Places Travel Itineraries <www.cr.nps.gov/nr/travel> for a broad range of destinations, regions and themes across the 50 states. Each itinerary includes descriptions of historic places and their context in American history, tourist information, interactive maps, photographs and links. Look for themes such as “We Shall Overcome: Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement” and “Places Where Women Made History.” Printed itineraries are available for a fee. Other good general resources include:
• TravelThePast <www.travelthepast.com> : Search 1,500 US museums, homes, battlefields, libraries, archives and other places of historical significance by time period, location or theme. For each, you’ll find its location, official Web site, description, directions and additional information.
• MuseumSpot <www.museumspot.com> : Find any museum the best, strangest, most specific with a quick visit to this site. You’ll be able to locate museums by city, state, country, name and topic. You can explore museums by type, search for exhibits by artist, and access educational and industry resources.
• Elderhostel <www.elderhostel.org> : If you’re 55 or older, this nonprofit organization offers you affordable trips to just about everywhere from New Hampshire to New Zealand, South Africa to South Dakota. Each trip has an educational focus. You can travel with a friend, spouse or group, or there’s opportunity to meet fellow Elderhostelers if you decide to travel alone. Click the Programs tab and search for genealogy, heritage, history or other topics that interest you.
Specific regions and ethnicities also have their own sites to guide you, such as:
• Philadelphia Multicultural Affairs Congress <www.philadelphiamac.org> : This site features African-American, Asian, Hispanic and Native American aspects of the City of Brotherly Love, including: the world’s first African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church, Mother Bethel AME; Chinatown’s 50-plus ethnic restaurants; the Latino community’s “center of gold,” or el centro de oro; and the United American Indians of the Delaware Valley Museum.
• Forgotten NY <www.forgotten-ny.com> : New York City was home to a flood of immigrants in the 18th,19th and early 20th centuries. If your ancestors were among them, get a sense of their lives from this “gateway to a New York City that existed long ago and still exists in a hidden form today.” You’ll see lampposts, advertisements, bridges, buildings and other signs of New York’s rich history. Don’t miss the forgotten cemeteries or the street necrology.
• California State Historical Landmarks <www.calandmarks.com> : California has designated nearly 1,100 sites as State Historical Landmarks, and Donald Laird has been to almost all of them. Visit his Web site to view a photograph from each site he’s visited and a brief history of the place. This is the perfect virtual vehicle to journey through California’s past.
• The Irish Heritage Trail <www.irishheritagetrail.com> : Take a trip through the capital of Irish America by walking the Irish Heritage Trail in Boston. You’ll tour highlights of an Irish community that dates to Colonial times. This self-guided, 3-mile walking tour takes you through Boston’s downtown, North End, Beacon Hill and Back Bay. Learn about famous politicians, artists, matriarchs and war heroes.
• The Lincoln Way: Pennsylvania 30 <www.paus30.org> : Cruise along Pennsylvania’s Route 30, also known as the “Lincoln Highway,” a historical landmark since 1930. The highway contributed to the development of organized cross-country roadways, and many historic attractions and events are associated with it. You’ll find information and maps for these attractions on the site.